The starling parents took advantage of the warm weather and decided to have another brood. Just as the first lot began to leave the garden for pastures new the next batch arrived all fluttering wings and open beaks. On occasions the combined quantity makes for a starling explosion at the feeding station. There is much squabbling and squalling as they vie for the best place at the fat ball or argue over the mealworm. I rarely see the parents now. Once their feeding duty is done they go to quieter domains for their sustenance, but the babies, knowing nothing else, hang around all day, long after the food has disappeared.
A couple of them had distinctive features so I could tell how much time they spent in the garden. One had a single white tail feather like an artist’s paintbrush and he spent many a happy hour searching the rockery for missed morsels. The other was continually sneezing, so drew my attention even when I was in the house. He would sit in the branches of the tree sneezing and shaking his head. He must have been born with a blockage in his beak and I wondered if I would be able to catch him and take him to the vet. Vets will treat wild animals for free or send you off to the wildlife sanctuary if they can’t be bothered. Although I would be trapping Sneezy for with the best of intentions, I didn’t think he would see it like that.
Both starlings were in the first batch of offspring and I haven’t seen Picasso for quite a time. Sneezy would come everyday and hang around, but is now just an occasional visitor who is difficult to ignore. One young chap hung round for a couple of days hiding in the undergrowth rather than flying off, but eventually he took to his wings. I am guessing from their behaviour that my garden is used much like a nursery and once the fledglings find their feet they start to forage further afield. That is a relief for I would hate to come back from holiday and find a row of emaciated starlings sitting expectantly on my garden fence.
The baby starlings have really taken to the bird bath in a way that has never appealed to their parents. They lounge about in there like Romans in a spa, chatting, bathing and sipping from the fresh spring waters. Well it starts off as fresh water, but the birds have no respect for hygiene and it soon fills with fat, caterpillar like deposits. These bake hard on the central stone or float about in the water. But everything suits someone in nature’s grand plan and I noticed that the flies choose to sit on the warm stone and sup from the sweet nectar of dried guano. The flies often spend time here rubbing their front legs together then rubbing their back legs together as they look out across the water. Mesmerised by the sparkle and shimmer some deicide to go for a swim. This is never a good idea for they are not built for aquatic activity. They flail around for a while then give in to their fate and float passively on the surface. If I spot them in time I give them a leaf raft on which to clamber and dry off their wings. If I put them back onto the stone then invariably I have to fish them out the water again a few minutes later, so I put them at a safe distance and hope that they have the good sense not to return.
Flies are not known for having a great deal of sense and tend to blunder their way through life. They continually get into the doughnut bird feeder, presumably tempted by the aroma of suet pellets. Once inside it is a one-way street as they can never make it back out through the small feeding hole. I see them whizzing around in there like it’s a snow dome. Every evening when I water the garden I unscrew the top and set them free. Some shoot straight out with a great sense of relief, but others continue to fly around like everything is cool. Eventually, like the last guests at a party, they fetch their coats and make for the exit.
There is every possibility that we will soon have enough starlings to enact the first murmur to been seen in the suburbs of Surrey for some time. It could make a news item, I mused, as I looked up into our neighbour’s tree and noticed that the sparrows were at it as well; creating a second brood right in front of my eyes. The female sat on the branch and flapped her wings in an enticing manner. The male didn’t need too much encouragement and promptly did his duty. I wondered if at any point he considered the onerous feeding schedule that was about to descend on him for the second time this year. It appeared not. Afterwards he moved up onto a higher branch and looked out contemplatively to the horizon beyond. He was possibly just looking the other way while the female adjusted her feathers. Then they both played hide and seek in a near by bush. Bit late for foreplay I thought, but perhaps this is how it is in the bird kingdom.
It is great to see the sparrows back. I have lived here for thirteen years and these are the first sparrows to visit regularly. They have already doubled their numbers with their first brood and now we can look forward to a new set of offspring being introduced to the garden in the near future. Wonderful stuff and hopefully, my feeding station has played a useful role.
We have put a weather proof, predator proof bird box in a secluded place on the garden fence in the hope that some of these small birds will decide to nest there. It could be too much of a hidden secret right now, as it is totally obscured by the twisted willow. How will they ever find it? In the winter when the leaves have fallen the nest box will be visible, but is that when the birds are out house hunting? I can hardly put a ‘for rent’ sign out. Patience is what’s needed here, patience and time. It wasn’t so long ago that I was saying that the birds would never come to my tiny patio garden and now I have a starling explosion.